Exhibit honors all those who lost their lives in military service since 9/11
by Louise R. SHAW
FARMINGTON—After her husband died while serving in the U.S. Army, Antoinette Stapley wanted to do something in his honor.
What she has done, in fact, honors all Utahns who have served in the military and died while serving in the last 17 years.
First Sgt.Tracy Stapley lost his life during a deployment in Qatar in 2013.
In 2016, Antoinette founded Operation Hero and established the Utah Fallen Service Members Boot Display.
“I wanted to bring awareness of the sacrifice our military personnel and their families make for our country every day,” she said. “It’s important to always honor and remember each one of our service members.”
Operation Hero came to Station Park over Memorial Day weekend. For the display, one boot representing each of the 257 men and women from Utah who have died since 9/11 were placed around a room.
“He loved the military and he loved what he was doing,” said Cory Olsen of his nephew, Lance Corporal Nigel K. Olsen, who served in the marines. “It is really meaningful to honor the memory of those who gave what they did for our country.”
Each boot on display represented one individual. Attached to each boot was an American flag, a military branch flag, a nametag, photo and biography.
The family of Sheldon Loveless came to see the display and honor his memory.
“This is incredible, it’s a beautiful way to pay tribute,” said JaNae Loveless, a sister. “It’s a beautiful way to honor them and remember them.”
Kerry Loveless, Sheldon’s father, said his son had joined the National Guard in high school.
“He was the kid that didn’t look for a fight, but who didn’t back down,” he said. “It led him to be the type who would join the National Guard and serve. This is a wonderful thing – a lot of people take service people for granted.”
“It’s an honor to be related to someone who was willing to do that,” said another sister, Jessica Davis. “He was one of the bravest people – he would never back down from defending others. He was a defender of all.”
On a nearby table, people had written notes to those honored.
“So many take our freedom for granted,” read one. “I just want to take a second to say how thankful I am for the freedom I have.”
A quote taped to the floor read, “To our fallen soldiers … you have done your duty. To honor you is ours.”
The display will also be on exhibit at the Warriors Over the Wasatch Air and Space Show at Hill Air Force Base on June 23 and 24.
More information is available on facebook.com at OperationHeroTracy.